Conduct unbecoming

In August, 1907, an English army officer Robert Baden-Powell organised an experimental camp on Brownsea Island on the south coast of England, off Dorset County. The camp was attended by 20 boys and some adults and proved a great success with the lads sleeping in tents, cooking their own food and learning outdoor skills.

Baden-Powell would later document this experience in a book entitled Scouting for Boys which was published in January, 1908 in fortnightly episodes. The book sold well among the youth of England who started to form their own  patrols and groups, leading to the start of the Scout movement. The organization quickly spread all over the world, with British Guiana getting on board in 1909 and becoming one of the first countries to join the movement.

The first world gathering of scouts, its initial jamboree, was held at Kensington Olympia, in London, England in 1920.  Guyana celebrated its diamond anniversary by hosting the Third Caribbean Jamboree in 1969 at the National Park, Georgetown and its hundredth year of scouting when the 14th Caribbean Jamboree was held in August, 2009 at the Sophia Exhibition Site. These jamborees are intended to promote the brotherhood of scouting, the exchange of ideas, provide exposure to different cultures and develop camaraderie among youth.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), one of the largest youth organizations in the country, is presently hosting its 19th National Jamboree at The Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve, with the eleven day event coming to a close this Friday. On Monday, President Donald Trump flew to West Virginia to address the gathering of some 40,000 scouts from around the USA.

Trump began with the usual preamble of how thrilled he was to be there and how he intended to speak to the Scouts on the subject of success and achieving their dreams. “You want to achieve your dreams, I said, who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?” Trump pitched to his audience to the sound of loud applause.

The President proceeded to thank the BSA for inviting him and praised the volunteer troop leaders and the parents for making scouting possible and for “not only shaping young lives, you are shaping the future of America. The United States has no better citizens than its Boy Scouts.”

It’s here that Trump’s resistance to temptation succumbed and he broke his early promise not to speak about politics and launched into a diatribe on his real and perceived opponents, after throwing an early jab at the media who “will say it’s about 200 people here. It looks like 45,000 people. You set a record today.”

First, the President addressed senators, ranting, “I said we ought to change it [Capitol Hill] from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool’ or perhaps to the word ‘sewer’”, before tactfully switching direction by referring to members of “our great government”, top advisors in the White House who were Eagle Scouts (highest level of attainment) in their younger days.

Senator Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, an Eagle Scout, who standing nearby received the next affront. “And hopefully he is going to get the votes tomorrow [yesterday] to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that is really hurting us,” Trump vented to loud applause and chants of USA, as he continued to pursue his obsession of obliterating his predecessor’s achievements.

“By the way, are you going to get the votes? He better get them. He better get them. Oh, he better. Otherwise, I’ll say, “Tom, you are fired.” I’ll get somebody,” the USA President suggested.

Next up, the media. “The fake media will say, ‘President Trump spoke’ ‒ you know what it is – ‘President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today. That’s some crowd. That’s ‒some crowd ‒ that is some crowd. Fake media. Fake news,” Trump continued to rail, taking the opportunity to ask the attendees, “Did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?” which was greeted with responses of boos in some quarters.

Following that Trump turned his attention to denigrating William Levitt, the real estate developer and the man considered to the founder of modern suburbia. Trump told the young impressionable audience how he had met him at a cocktail party for highly successful people in New York, and how he was sitting all alone. Levitt had sold his company for a lot of money, Trump related, but later bought it back because he missed the business, only to lose his fortune this time and go personally bankrupt. The President noted that Levitt told him that he had lost his momentum. What is the value in disparaging a significant contributor to the development of his country, in such a manner, on a national stage?

The President was now on a roll and tooted his own horn, recalling the election night of 8th November, “where they said, these dishonest people, where they said, there is no path of victory for Donald Trump,” and the map was so red that it was unbelievable.

Trump would go on to praise the Boy Scouts for their oath of pledging to do their best and do their duty to God and country, their hours of community service whilst quickly reminding the audience of the billions and billions of dollars being spent on the military and his promise to ‘Make America Great Again’.

President Trump culminated his address by showering praise on the jamboree attendees for their contribution to the country and “to do their best”. The speech has since been posted online and billed as the ‘Greatest Speech Ever.’ Several past and current scouts have been critical of the President’s speech at the National Jamboree, venting their rage and disappointment via social media.

The BSA has since released the following statement, “The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy. The sitting U.S. President serves as the BSA’s honorary president. It is our long standing custom to invite the U.S. President to the National Jamboree.”

The speech comes on the heels of Trump referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions (an Eagle Scout who he never mentioned or took to the jamboree) as beleaguered, and whom he has considered replacing and has publicly tried to force to resign, and the rumour of the pending dismissal of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has been conducting the probe of Russian links to his election campaign, and his pronouncements that his presidential powers allow him to pardon anyone implicated in the said investigation.

Political commentators have described the speech as strange and have filtered it for its political implications. His referral to the first two Scout Laws Trustworthy and Loyal, “As the Scout Law says, ‘A Scout is trustworthy, loyal’ – we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that,” during his address to the Scouts has evoked the question, as to whom. Sessions? The Republicans on the health care vote? Staff leakers?

As Honorary President of the BSA, Trump knowingly seized the advantage of a national non-partisan audience of impressionable American youth, when he should have been providing motivation for their future aspirations and growth, and chose instead to spend a major portion of the time attacking his foes and blowing his own trumpet. This is in complete contrast to the BSA’s mission of preparing young people to make ethical and moral choices, as conveyed in the Scout Oath and Law.

It is sad state of affairs that the leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world could sink to such unbecoming conduct.

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